Translated by Abhisek Sarkar

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

Chhabi has expired.

Chhabila died close to day break. She had been choked to death. Her one year old child Etim, following his usual morning practice, is trying quite hard to suck some milk out of one of her breasts.

Patuki has no inkling about who killed Chhabi. Although it is not unknown to him that this is not a natural death, he is yet to discover that the man he spotted approaching Chhabi’s house early in the morning was the killer. But the very next night Patuki would come to know who killed Chhabila. The one who would be his source of information is the most reliable of all. The rich and the poor, thieves and thugs, the good and the bad, all have respect for him. It is only Patuki who he speaks with. But the day is still young and he has to wait long for nightfall. How long will he have to cope with this hubble-bubble in his stomach, with this uncanny sensation running through his veins?

The man who visited Chhabila at dawn had also been seen coming out of her house late in the night. Patuki spends the whole of the night at the southern bank of the pond behind dense bushes, fishing pole in hand. Long aerial roots of a great banyan tree surround this place. These bushes entice him. The night has its own allure. Only Allah knows why people waste these hours sleeping. Patuki does not sleep; he cannot. The long fishing line of Patuki does not have a hook hence the float also is redundant. He has seen people climbing up his fishing thread from the water— many of them. They climb throughout the night and bless Patuki. Then they climb up those roots of the banyan tree. Now they turn into fireflies and fly around the Banyan pir.

Dara Shukoh

 

 

Title: Dara Shukoh: The Man Who Would Be King

Author: Avik Chanda

Publisher: Harper Collins India, India

Links: Amazon

 

 

In the majlises at his residence, Dara revelled at the prospect of pitching the proponents of different faiths against each other, in a theosophical joust. For a while, Jesuits, with their fervour of preaching and advocating the superiority of their faith, were the fashion of the season in Dara’s mansion. Father Estanilas Malpica, Pedro Juarte, Henri Buzeo and Heinrich Roth shocked and regaled those present, and later, after the debate was over, sat at table with the Prince and shared the wine together. As regards the Prince’s own views in the matter, as Bernier, who came to know him personally, commented: ‘Dara was in private a Gentile with Gentiles, and a Christian with Christians.’ This stemmed not from any innate sense of diplomacy – indeed, Dara had none – but a firm belief in the commonality between religions, an advocacy of the tenets that sustained like an unbroken thread across them, rather than the rituals and doctrines that separated them, causing strife and suffering.

And yet, there were times Dara was not so aloof from the world that none of its news reached him. There was strife and dissent in the empire – and it was directed against him. It was not only the greybeards at court, the statesmen and generals, who felt slighted by him. There was another, equally powerful enemy: the orthodox Islamic clergy. Since ages, there had been an unwritten agreement between the religious and administrative leadership. There was the rule of the Church – and that of noble kings, Brahmin priests and Kshatriya rajahs, and elsewhere across the Muslim empires, ulema and sultans divided the land and their people between themselves. But now, here was Dara, the Crown Prince of Hindustan, who challenged their authority; scorned them for their rigidity, and supposed lack of divine insight and spiritual experiences; and vilified them in his speeches and published writings. Dara had far overstepped his mark as a Prince of the realm, and amongst the disgruntled orthodoxy, there were rumblings of heresy.

 

The Dr & MrsA-cover.jpg

 

Title: The Doctor and Mrs A.: Ethics and Counter-Ethics in an Indian Dream Analysis

Author: Sarah Pinto

Publisher: Women Unlimited, 2019

Links: Women Unlimited

 

In the early 1940s, Mrs A. was a young housewife, three years married. She was unsettled, ill at ease in her new home, in what should have been a comfortable, secure life during a heady time. War was still on, the young men of her city and its surrounding countryside offered up as the rank and file in the British Army. Friends were away fighting, and those who were not debated their country’s future and wondered which vision of society would shape it. Her hero, Jawaharlal Nehru, was in prison, which upset her greatly.

When she met with Dev Satya Nand, an army doctor training young psychiatrists to serve on the front lines, he noted her demeanour with affection. Care and enthusiasm overrode clinical reserve. In his eyes, she was cultivated but aloof, empathetic but intimidating, tall and imposing yet timid and ‘tender’, ‘pensive and thoughtful from early school days’. Her contradictions were endearing, making her, perhaps, an ideal analysand, self-aware and reflective, yet mysterious, at times opaque. He wrote:

A beautiful fair-complexioned, dignified and artistically dressed, cultured and well-educated girl. She was taller than the average Indian girl, and attracted attention, as well as commanded respect wherever she was introduced. With large tender eyes, and refined tastes she could charm and even allure when she liked to do so. She was of a trusting nature, confiding and popular with the rich as well as with the poor.

At times she was dreamy and prone to be absent-minded now and then. But at others she would be the very life of a party, and could entertain very well.

twining COVER

Title: The House of Twining Roses

Author: Nabina Das

Publisher: LiFi Publishers

Year of Publishing: 2014

Link: Amazon

 

 

About Aribam

Throughout the morning session, I couldn’t have him speak more than two sentences.

“My name is Aribam Ngangom. I work for Manipur Times.”

“Like Aribam Syam Sharma!” I quipped.

It was meant to be a compliment. Aribam Syam Sharma was a celebrity. A filmmaker and artiste from Manipur.

“I’m Nalini Datta,” I said.

His eyes were cold steel. Like the one he once held in his hands, he said much later. It was a cool March morning on the first day of our Annual North East Media Fellowship Seminar in the wood-scented north-eastern hill town of Shillong. We took in the view across the lawns of Hotel Pinewood, one of Shillong’s finest.

Of the twenty gathered, Mr. Sharma, Sumana and I were the organisers. We gorged on our English breakfast early. Plenty of bacon and ham, usually not a staple if the seminar were to be elsewhere in India. We North-easterners, often touted as omnivores, were pleased with the menu although there was aloo paratha and lassi too. The nine o’clock introductory session was where we all formally met. I delivered a small speech to the participating journalists after Mr. Sharma spoke. Our chief program coordinator, opened with a keynote address. About forty or forty-five and with a conical face, Mr. Sharma spoke with his characteristic tardiness. His lips pursed even the longer, rounder vowels but he made his point clearly. If he ever needed to raise his voice, he raised his thick eyebrows as well, elongating his conical face even more. He always dressed semi-formal.

My colleague Sumana was thirtyish, dusky, and pleasantly pixie-faced. While she smiled even during trying times, her black eyes sought out any problem before solving them quietly. She always wore cotton saris neatly pleated and loosely tied her shoulder-length hair, even while rushing to work. I was almost about her age, and could easily furrow my brows under pressure. But because she was a good one-arm taller than my five-one height, she treated me like a kid sister and advised me generously.

Coming Back to the City_Front Cover

Title:  Coming Back to the City, Mumbai Stories

Author: Anuradha Kumar

Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books

Year of publication: 2019

Links if any: Speaking Tiger 

 

 

Pooja: The Evening of the Immersion

The bulldozer moved over the uneven road, lurching over potholes, and scattering the broken stones. Pooja heard the sound fleetingly, muffled by the rain drumming outside. It was a bit after twelve.

Pooja stood in the darkness thinking over her recent conversation with Gauri Tai. Tai had been hesitating, as if she was trying to hide some anxiety.

‘Pooja?’

‘Tai.’ The stove near Pooja sizzled.

‘Do you know where Mahesh is, Pooja?’

‘Mahesh?’ Pooja felt a blankness descend on her. For some days now Mahesh had become someone she didn’t know and now Pooja found she couldn’t conjure up his face at all. All that came to her, almost with the force of the blinding sun, was her shock at seeing that gun under his pillow. There it lay, a neat brown-black thing, its imprint marked on the sheets and still warm from the pillow over it. The gun had seethed with menace and all those secrets she had never wanted to know about Mahesh.

Translated by Cho Yoon-jung

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

I had been walking back and forth in front of the house for an hour already. But still I couldn’t knock on the door. Nothing conclusive had been found. With things turning out this way, even I found it hard to understand myself. Why was I so hung up on this unsolved case that I’d taken a day off to come here. Like a real estate agent, I was scouting the houses in the neighbourhood, as if I had nothing better to do. In this high-tech age, when most families relied on AI robots to play not only housemaid and babysitter but even lawyer, judge, doctor and fund manager, the lives of the people on the fringes continued to be as dismal as ever.

At the pocket park inside the neighbourhood hung a banner that reads: “Making Mt. Bukhan a global park.” The residents had responded by pulling down the walls. All the houses had been built so close together in the first place that even with the walls gone, a garden only the size of a picnic mat was left. But the clustered pots of marigolds, geraniums, and cyclamens were more than enough to wipe away the gloomy air of the neighbourhood. That small excess of loveliness, however, could not wipe away the uneasiness in my heart. This was one of those rare places in Seoul inhabited by people who tore down walls. Until recently K had been living here among them.

It was early on a Sunday morning, when I was fast asleep, that the discovery of someone’s SG was reported. It was after a night of tussling in bed with J and my body was limp. But when the phone sounded, shattering the dawn time peace, instinctively I reached for the SG lying next to the pillow. My tiredness vanished. A young girl shaking with fright was caught on the remote surveillance camera attached to the SG.

bg_as_slow_as_possible

Title: As Slow As Possible

Author: Kit Fan

Publisher: Arc Publications

Year of Publication: 2018

Links: https://www.arcpublications.co.uk/books/kit-fan-as-slow-as-possible-584

 

 

Among School Teachers

 

The gate closed, bell unanswered, basketball court

stripped bare to lines and sparrows.

July is never the month for learning.

 

A school on Clear Water Bay Road, yet no water

bay, nor road. A bridge, along the scar of a hill

through the Lotus-flowered Magnolias I used to cross over

to the clamour of books.

 

A month of no children, but the translucent playground

after rain recalls the aftermath of hide-and-seek:

What’s the time, Mr Wolf?

A Tribute to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on his 150thbirth anniversary  

By Ratnottama Sengupta

Rare studio photograph of Mahatma Gandhi taken in London England UK at the request of Lord Irwin 1931
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

“By 1930 all of India and its British rulers too were uttering one name with awe: Gandhi.  One evening it came to my ears that the Mahatma would reach Patna at 7am the next morning, spend the day in the city and leave by the Punjab Mail at night.

I did not sleep well that night, I was up at the crack of dawn and left home 5am on the pretext of getting a book from a friend.

But I could not get anywhere near the Patna railway station, which was teeming with people who had arrived before sunrise. It was no different along the path he would be driven down. I hung around at one end of the platform, eyes glued to the exit gate.

Policemen on horseback trotted past me. A police van was parked close by. Those patrolling the platform carried bayonets and batons. Because of my green years, and my small built, I was allowed to inch ahead. From time to time, the sky was rent with the cry of ‘Mahatma Gandhi ki jai! Long live the Mahatma!’

All of a sudden, perhaps to steel myself, I started to whisper ‘Vande Mataram*! Vande Mataram!‘ As if on a cue, the man next to me cried out aloud: ‘Vande Mataram!‘ The crowd roared in an echo: ‘Vande Mataram! Vande Mataram!!

TBASS

The first time Arun and I go out after I lose my voice is to Niti and Kevin’s house. The evening of December tenth, their wedding anniversary. Eight years they’ve been married, eight years we’ve been friends. If I skip their party, they won’t hold it against me. Our friendship is stronger than that, but Arun won’t let me test it.

“You’ve got to get out of the house” —his answer to everything I say.

When the argument tires me out, I give in. The other guests have already filled up their lawn when we arrive. I peer at the crowd from inside the car. Panic pins me to my seat. I can’t breathe, can’t stretch my arm out and reach for the door. An avalanche of sympathy is about to hit me. Condolences are the last thing I want, but condolences will bury me alive when I go out there.